Monday, July 25, 2011

Allium sphaerocephalon

Allium sphaerocephalon, also called the Drumstick Allium, have been a great addition to our Driveway Garden for 4 years now.

I first wanted to grow them because I saw them everywhere in my reading on English gardens. In the UK, they are considered a garden staple apparently, and after growing them I can see why. They add cottage-charm to a boarder, looking good from their sprouting up in late May until they are cut down at the end of July. Their round, reddish-purple heads last for weeks. And best of all, they bloom while the garden is rebounding, after the old roses and before the high summer flowers have started (like purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea).
Photo from the Driveway Garden in June 2008
I love their green heads in May and June. They are a wonderful accent to all of the flowers in those months. Above is Allium sphaerocephalon with Geranium 'Orion' and Lavendula 'Hidcote'.

This year, Allium sphaerocephalon with Geranium 'Rozanne', both blooming above a carpet of Sedum 'Acre'.

They seem to come back quite well in well-drained, sunny areas. They are in the onion family, so the odor keeps animal pests away. But after four years, they are finally starting to look a bit thin. I will want to replant some this year if I want to keep them playing their role.

July 2009
You can see the mass of alliums hovering over the artemesia and below the purple coneflower. This photo was taken when our house was still white and rusted. I am so thankful for paint! (Thank you, honey!)

Photo from Driveway Garden in July 2009
In past years, Allium sphaerocephalon has made a great combination with the reseeding, brilliant orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). You can see them together right along the sidewalk path to the backyard. I think I will make a note to put out some more poppy seeds next year. They lasted three years here without a thought. 

One garden editing thought: They do lean as the heads bloom larger. Next time, I think I will plant them more in the middle of the boarder instead of the front. Though I love their see-through quality at the front in early summer, they rather flop later. Better to have some other plants to lean on.  

My last comment on this allium is that it needs to be planted in large groups. Do not bother planting a couple, and even ten is rather slim. Plant at least in groups of 25 bulbs, I would say. And plant multiple groups.

Read more about the Driveway Garden in July:
Geranium 'Orion'
Asiatic Lily 'Rosella’s Dream'
oh... and the pitiful flower


  1. Beautiful! I like that they add color and texture to the garden before they bloom as well. I have not tried allium, but I think I now would like to add some to the cottage garden.

  2. These are so cute and they add such nice color!

    Kinda like little pom-poms:)

  3. Bardzo lubię czosnki ozdobne, a te które są na Twoich zdjęciach kwitną najpóźniej. Mam je też w swoim ogródku, ale już też przekwitły i są "zielone głowy", jak je nazywasz. Pozdrawiam

  4. They are beautiful in every stage of their development. Such a sweet flower and beautiful color!

  5. I planted some this year, and I was very happy with them. This post reminds me I should plant more! Beautiful pics.

  6. Mine are done for the season--I cut them back about a week ago. I agree they're an excellent plant for borders and they should be placed behind plants that can support them (or just realize that they will bend toward the sun). Great post!

  7. I've never tried you have a good source for them? I'm always looking for plants to bring the gap from the early summer flush to midsummer. :)

  8. I just love Alliums, loads of different ones in all sizes. As you say they help protect the garden too. Multitasking plants, love 'em!

  9. Julie

    your alliums are making me jealous.

    For some reason I've had no luck with them over the years.

    It's a good thing that I can enjoy them in other gardens!

  10. The floppy habit, although erratic, is really supporting the cottage garden feel to your planting! They look wonderful! A very intense red-purple shade to them.


  11. Beautiful! I would love to have a herbaceous border like yours one day...

  12. Thanks for the reminder to buy more, like yours, mine have dwindled over the years and need replenishing. Yours really do look lovely in your border, especially contrasting with the artemesia.

  13. Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments! I love reading them.

    Hanni: To answer your question, I have a bulb company that I especially like. John Scheepers ( and their sister company that deals in bulk orders, Van Engelen ( They have great prices. Fun to order 100 of something!

  14. I love the way they look combined with the artemesia. I planted some in my garden this year, but they hardly bloomed at all. The bulbs were very tiny, so I hope they just need another year to grow.

  15. Your alliums look great. I've grown these for years. The one other nice thing about them is that the bees love them.


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